Today OSTP released its second annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by Federal agencies to spur innovation and solve Grand Challenges. Those efforts have expanded in the last two years under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which granted all Federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.
This year’s report details the remarkable benefits the Federal Government reaped in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 from more than 45 prize competitions across 10 agencies. To date, nearly 300 prize competitions have been implemented by 45 agencies through the website Challenge.gov.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool in every agency’s toolbox. In his September 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama called on all Federal agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions. Then, in September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions.
The prize authority in COMPETES is a key piece of this effort. By giving agencies a clear legal path and expanded authority to deploy competitions and challenges, the legislation makes it dramatically easier for agencies to enlist this powerful approach to problem-solving and to pursue ambitious prizes with robust incentives.
As the report released today makes clear, agencies made big strides in the challenge arena in FY 2012. In FY 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began establishing strategies to expand its use of the new prize authority – and by FY 2012, HHS emerged as a leader in implementing prize programs, offering 18 prize competitions, many conducted through public-private partnerships. Also in FY 2012, the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration issued challenges focused on leveraging open government data to benefit entrepreneurs, job-seekers, and small businesses.
To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation.
Notable FY 2012 prizes detailed in the report include:
All indications from the first two years of implementation are that the prize authority in COMPETES is continuing to help agencies across the Federal Government reap the benefits of high-impact prizes.
You can learn more about the prize competitions being run across the Federal Government at Challenge.gov.
You can read the full FY 2012 progress report here.
Cristin Dorgelo is Assistant Director for Grand Challenges in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy